Christianity and Islam have more in common than most people know — they are both monotheistic Abrahamic religions, and Jesus Christ is an important, revered figure in both religions.

Followers of Christianity — called Christians — believe in the Holy Trinity, and that Christ, the son of God, walked the earth as the incarnate form of God ("the Father"). Most Christians also believe Christ will return at the end of the world.

Muslims (followers of Islam) consider Jesus Christ to be a prophet — a messenger of God — and a messiah. However, they believe that Muhammad was the last prophet and he recorded the word of God verbatim in the Quran.

Comparison chart

Christianity versus Islam comparison chart
ChristianityIslam
ChristianityIslam
Place of worship Church, chapel, cathedral, basilica, home bible study, personal dwellings. Mosque/masjid, any place which is considered clean by Islamic standards.
Place of origin Roman province of Judea. Arabian Peninsula, Mecca at Mount Hira.
Practices Prayer, sacraments (some branches), worship in church, reading of the Bible, acts of charity, communion. Five pillars: Testament that there is one God and Muhammad is his messenger (shahadah); prayer five times daily; fast during Ramadan; charity to the poor (zakat); pilgrimage (Hajj).
Use of statues and pictures In Catholic & Orthodox Churches. Images of God or prophets not permitted. Art takes the form of calligraphy, architecture etc. Muslims distinguish themselves from other groups by not drawing lifelike human works, which could be mistaken as idolatry. No image is representative of God
Belief of God One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Only one God (monotheism). God is the one True Creator. God has always existed, none existed before him and will exist forever. He transcends life and death. No part of His creation resembles Him, He cannot be seen, but sees all.
Scriptures The Holy Bible The Qur'an, and traditions of the Holy Last messenger Muhammad, called 'Sunnah' which is found in narrations or 'hadiths' by the men around him.
Means of Salvation Through Christ's Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Belief in one God, remembrance of God, repentance, fear of God and hope in God's mercy.
Life after death Eternity in Heaven or Hell, in some cases temporal Purgatory. All beings created with reason will be accountable to God Almighty on the Day of Judgement. They will be rewarded for every atom's weight of good, and either forgiven or punished for evil deeds.
Followers Christian (follwers of Christ) Muslims
About Christianity broadly consists of individuals who believe in the deity Jesus Christ. Its followers, called Christians, often believe Christ is "the Son" of the Holy Trinity and walked the earth as the incarnate form of God ("the Father"). Islam consists of individuals who believe in Allah, a deity whose teachings its followers—Muslims—believe were recorded, verbatim, by the god's last prophet, Muhammad.
Human Nature Man has inherited "original sin" from Adam. Mankind then is inherently evil and is in need of forgiveness of sin. By knowing right and wrong Christians choose their actions. Humans are a fallen, broken race in need of salvation and repair by God. Humans are born pure and innocent. Upon reaching adolescence, you are responsible for what you do, and must choose right from wrong. Islam also teaches that faith and action go hand-in-hand.
Clergy Priests, bishops, ministers, monks, and nuns. Imam leads congregational prayer in a mosque. Sheikh, Maulana, Mullah and Mufti
View of the Buddha N/A. N/A. Islamic scripture does not discuss or mention Gautam Buddha.
Original Language(s) Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. Arabic
Symbols Cross, ichthys ("Jesus fish"), Mary and baby Jesus. Muhammad's name in calligraphy is common. There is also the black standard that says "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the last messenger of God" in Arabic. The star and crescent is not Islam per se; it is inspired by the Ottoman empire.
God's role in salvation Humans cannot save themselves or ascend on their own to a higher level. Only God is good and therefore only God is able to save a person. Jesus came down from Heaven to save mankind. You are judged according to your efforts to do good and avoid sinful behaviors, oppression, etc. God will judge your deeds and intentions. A person must believe in God and follow His commandments.
Marriage A Holy Sacrament. Islam is totally opposed to monasticism and celibacy. Marriage is an act of Sunnah in Islam and is strongly recommended. Men can only marry the "people of the book" i.e., Abrahamic religions. Women can only marry a Muslim man.
Goal of religion To love God and obey his commandments while creating a relationship with Jesus Christ and spreading the Gospel so that others may also be saved. Fulfill gift and responsibility of this life through following the guidance of Holy Quran and Hadith, striving to serve mankind through compassion, justice, trustworthiness, and love for all of God's creation
Founder The Lord Jesus Christ. Prophet Muhammad. According to Islamic scripture, all people who follow God's revealed guidance and the messengers sent with it 'submit' to that guidance, and are considered Muslims (ie. Adam, Moses, Abraham, Jesus, etc.).
Confessing sins Protestants confess straight to God, Catholic confess mortal sins to a Priest, and venial sins straight to God (Orthodox have similar practice) Anglicans confess to Priests but considered optional. God always forgives sins in Jesus. Forgiveness must be sought from God, there is no intermediary with him. If any wrong is done against another person or thing, forgiveness must first be sought from them, then from God, as all of God's creation have rights that must not be infringed
Revered People Varies by sect/denomination. Saints, the Pope, cardinals, bishops, nuns, church pastors, or deacons. Prophets, Imams (religious leaders).
Second coming of Jesus Affirmed. Affirmed
Literal Meaning Follower Of Christ. Islam is derived from the Arabic root "Salema": peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of God and obedience to His law. A Muslim is one who follows Islam.
Spiritual Beings Angels, demons, spirits. Angels, demons, spirits, jinn (genies).
Ressurection of Jesus Affirmed. Denied because God raised Jesus to him and he will return before end of time to finish his life, correct any confusion about his teachings and restore order to the world.
Status of Muhammad N/A. Deeply loved and revered in Islam. The last Prophet, but is not worshipped. Only God (the creator) is worshipped in Islam; God's creation (including prophets) are not considered worthy of worship.
Geographical distribution and predominance Europe, North and South America, and Australia and New Zealand. There are 1.6 billion. By the percentage of the total population in a region considering themselves Muslim, 24.8% in Asia-Oceania, 91.2% in the Middle East-North Africa, 29.6% in Sub-Saharan Africa, around 6.0% in Europe, and 0.6% in the Americas.
On Food/Drink Though the Old Testament of the Bible says certain meats should not be consumed, Christians usually feel this information does not apply to them (in the New Testament) and so eat what they want to eat. Muslims are only supposed to eat foods that are considered halal. Pork is forbidden. Requirement for prayer and ritual butchery of meat. Quick and swift slaughter at single point on the throat; blood has to be completely drained.
Prophets Prophets in the Bible are venerated. God sent thousands of divinely inspired messengers to guide mankind. These include Adam, Solomon, David, Noah, Abraham, Ismail, Issac, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. There are 124,000 prophets, who were sent to all the world's nations.
Belief The Nicene Creed sums up Christian belief in the Holy Trinity. Belief in one God, who has sent messengers with revelation and guidance for humanity so they may be guided to good & who have came with both good news and a warning, the last & final messenger being Muhammad صلى الله علي
Primary God(s) A single, all-powerful god known as God that is typically thought of in "trinity" form: God, the Father; Christ, the Son; and the Holy Spirit (or Ghost). Not all sects/denominations of Christianity believe in the Trinity. Only Allah, who is seen as being all-powerful. "They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah." —Surat Al-Ma'idah 5:73
imams identified as N/A. Shiites believe they are the successors of Ali; Sunnis regard them as their clergy.
Jesus Son Of God. Muslims believe Jesus to be a perfect, sinless, highly revered Prophet and a messenger of God. His name in Arabic is Isa ibn Mariam (Jesus the son of Mary). Jesus was immaculately conceived through God, but is not God or the son of God.
Definition Disciple of Jesus Christ. Islam is an Arabic word for "Submission or surrender in Ultimate Peace".Muslim means a believer in One God (Al-Illah or Allah)
Abrahamic Lineage Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The ancestor of Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم is Abraham (Ibrahim) through his son Ismael.
Position of Mary Mother Of God. Mary receives significant admiration from Muslims. She is said by the Prophet Muhammad to be one of the four best women that God created. She is free of sin as the mother of Jesus.
Most Common Sects Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant. Sunni, Shia.
Religious Law Has existed among Catholics in the form of canon law. Shariah law (derived from Quran and Hadith) governs prayers, business transactions, and individual rights, as well as criminal and governmental laws. Religious debate, or 'Shura' is utilized for practical solutions to contemporary issues
Position of Abraham Father of the faithful. A great prophet and a perfect, sinless example of the divine guidance of God.
Day of worship Sunday, the Lord's Day. Prayer five times daily is obligatory. Friday is the day of congregational prayer, obligatory for men, but not for women.
Virtue on which religion is based upon Love. Tawheed (oneness of God); Peace
On Afterlife Eternal life in heaven (paradise) or hell (torment). Some Catholics believe in purgatory (limbo, temporary punishment). Eternal life in heaven (paradise) or hell (torment).
On Apocalypse Most, though not all, Christians believe Christ will return during an apocalypse that includes famine, war, and plague. Some Muslims believe Jesus will return at the end of the world; the difference is that they believe his return is a sign, not the actual end. Other Muslims believe Jesus is a minor figure and that Islam's 12th imam, Mahdi, will cleanse the world.
Original Languages Aramaic, Common (Koine) Greek, Hebrew. Arabic.
On Race All races generally viewed equal in Christianity. However, Bible passages on slavery were used to support the practice in the past in the U.S. The "curse of Ham" was sometimes thought to be black skin; modern interpretations reject this. Races generally viewed as equal, but those that accept Islam are viewed more favorably than those that do not. "Among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors..." —Surat 30:22
On Clothing Conservative Christians dress modestly; women may cover their heads, wear long skirts or dresses; men may wear dress clothes that do not show the chest, legs, and arms. More moderate or liberal Christians generally reject such clothing restrictions. Women must present themselves modestly to cover hair and body shape. Men must be modestly dressed and covered from waist to knee. In most Muslim culture, women wear a form of the hijab; in some, they must wear the full-body cover known as the burqa.
View of Jesus God in human form, "Son of God," savior. Death by crucifixion. Most, though not all, of Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead, was taken up into heaven, and will return during an apocalypse. Jesus was a perfect, sinless, highly revered Prophet and a messenger of God. Jesus was immaculately conceived through God, but is not God or the son of God. Jesus did not die but ascended to heaven. So there was no resurrection.
Holy Days Christmas (celebration of the birth of Jesus), Good Friday (death of Jesus), Sunday (day of rest), Easter (resurrection of Jesus), Lent (Catholicism), saints' feast days. Ramadan (month of fasting), Eid-ul Adha (feast of the sacrifice), Eid-ul Fitr (sweet festival at the end of Ramadan).
Praying to Saints, Mary, and Angel Encouraged in the Catholic & Orthodox Churches; most Protestants only pray directly to God. Shiites ask for Saints' intercession, but, Sunnis do not. Mary is venerated by both Sunnis and Shiites however.
Population Over a billion adherents worldwide. 1.6 billion Muslims
Important Tenets The Ten Commandments, The Beatitudes. The Five Pillars of Islam among Sunni Muslims and the Seven Pillars of Islam among Shia Muslims. The Shia Twelvers also have the Ancillaries of the Faith.
Number of Adherents An estimated 2.1 billion, largest religion in the world. An estimated 1.5 billion, second largest religion in the world.
Sacred Texts Christian Bible (includes Old and New Testaments). What is considered canon may vary slightly by sect/denomination. Some groups, like Mormons with the Book of Mormon, have other important books, too. While the Qur'an is the only holy text of Islam, the Hadith, which is said to be the sayings of Muhammad, is also highly revered.
View on Abrahamic religions All worship the One God. Believe that Jews & Christians should accept Muhammad as the final Prophet; believe that Baha'is are wrong in believing that Bah-u-llah is a prophet.
On Women Equal to men. In some denominations, they may become nuns. Varies. Some Muslims view women as equal, while others believe women should be subservient. Clothing is usually controlled (e.g., hijab, burqa); health choices may be restricted. Surat An-Nisa 4:34 allows for "light beating" of "disobedient" wives.
Founders and Early Leaders Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the Apostles. Muhammad, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali
Year Formed 28-33 CE. 610-622 CE.
Original Language Aramaic, Greek, and Latin Arabic
Influenced By Hellenistic Judaism, Jewish folklore, Greco-Roman paganism, monotheistic Zoroastrianism. Judaism, Christianity, monotheistic Zoroastrianism. Customs of the pagan religions of the Arabian Peninsula that already had pilgrimages to Mecca.
Views on Sacred Texts Varies from literal, fundamentalist interpretations, to the belief that the Bible is fallible and filled with metaphors. Varies, but more Muslims than not feel the Qur'an is literally the word of Allah, as passed down through Muhammad. The Qur'an is the primary source, the hadiths is the secondary source. Both books need to be followed
On Other Religions Many Christians believe all other religions are false. Moderates may or may not believe this. "Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips." —Exodus 23:13 Most Muslims believe all other religions are false. "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day...until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."—Surat At-Tawbah 9:29 Disbelievers will go to eternal hell.
On Marriage/Divorce Definition of marriage and divorce acceptance varies by sect/denomination. Bible includes examples of polygamy and monogamy and only condones divorce in cases of adultery. According to the Qur'an, men may marry more than one woman, but no more than four, as long as he can support them and treat them fairly. Divorce easy for men, difficult for women.
On LGBT Varies. Christians who believe in more literal interpretations of the Bible rarely accept homosexuality; some see it as a crime. "Do not be deceived...men who have sex with men...will not inherit the kingdom of God." —1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Varies, but generally homosexuality is not accepted. Verses from the Qur'an condemn it and modern fatwas (Islamic law interpretation) often ban homosexuality as a crime, punishable by death in some countries. Sex change is not permitted.
On Money Tithing / charitable giving. "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." —Jesus in Matthew 19:24 Zakat (charitable giving). "And know that your possessions and your children are but a trial (fitnah) and that surely with Allah is a mighty reward." —Surat Al-'Anfal 8:28
On Atheism Varies. Some believe atheists will go to hell because they do not believe in God; others believe God does not operate that way. "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, their deeds are vile..." —Psalm 14:1 Varies, but atheism can be very dangerous in some Muslim nations. "O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell, an evil refuge indeed." —Surat At-Tawbah 9:73

Early History

In many ways, Christianity and Islam were radical for their times, often preaching tolerance, respect, and equality between different races and classes, despite rigid monotheism. This initial progressive nature resulted in considerable persecution but ultimately did not stop the development, evolution, or expansion of either religion. Ultimately, early Christianity and Islam were spread by exploration, trade, missions, warfare, and colonization.

According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ had a number of followers prior to his execution in Golgotha, but the concept of Christianity as a religion did not truly exist until after his crucifixion, when his most ardent followers, such as the Roman Apostle Paul, began writing and speaking of Christ's reported miracles.

Christianity acquired many of its terms and beliefs from the Hellenistic Judaism and Greco-Roman paganism that were dominant at the times and places of Christianity's earliest development. The Roman Empire, with its common language—Latin—crossing great swaths of land, helped spread Christianity, especially after Emperor Constantine (around 300 CE) converted to the religion, ordered the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and adopted the cross for his army's banners. To learn more about early Christianity, its development, and the spread of the religion, watch the Crash Course video below.

By the time Islam was formed in 622 CE, Roman Catholicism, the most widespread form of Christianity, already had its 69th Pope—Pope Boniface V. In Mecca, in the Arabian Peninsula where Islam began, there was a melting pot of faith that included Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and those who worshipped Mesopotamian gods. It was in this place and time that Muslims believe Muhammad was visited by the angel Gabriel and told to begin writing down the word of the one true god, Allah.

Many in the region saw monotheism as a threat, eventually forcing Muhammad to migrate with his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE in what is known as the Hijra. Most consider this the beginning of Islam as a religion, as the migration brought many new followers to the fledgling faith. In 630 CE, Muhammad and his followers were able to return to Mecca in a near-bloodless conflict.

Murji'ah, an early Islamic philosophy that promoted tolerance of a wide variety of beliefs within Islam (leaving the judgment of Muslims to Allah), likely smoothed the way for early conversions. Within 100 years, Islam had spread rapidly east and west of the Arabian Peninsula. A Crash Course video that covers Islam's development, expansion, and how it split into two main branches can be watched below.

Short Timeline of Christianity and Islam

Note: Dates are historical estimates.

Jesus Christ in Islam and Christianity

Jesus Christ, son of Mary is, of course, the most important figure and namesake in Christianity. Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God, and that along with God and the Holy Spirit, Jesus is part of the Godhead, or Holy Trinity. Christian belief is that Jesus' mother Mary was a virgin, that Jesus died when he was crucified, and that he was resurrected on the third day after his death.

Several of these beliefs about Jesus are shared in Islam. Muslims also believe in

Where Islamic beliefs about Jesus differ is that Muslims believe that Jesus, although he was crucified, never actually died but ascended to heaven. God raised Jesus to Himself. Because Jesus never died, Muslims do not believe in the resurrection.

Position of Mary

As the virgin mother of Jesus Christ, Mary is an important figure in both Christianity and Islam. Mary plays a larger role in practices of some sects of Christianity, particularly Catholicism, where statues of Mary abound. In Islam, Mary is considered the best woman God ever created, and free of sin.

Beliefs and Practices

Major branches of Christianity.
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Major branches of Christianity.

Beliefs and practices among Christians and Muslims vary greatly across the world and among certain demographics. Within Christianity, Catholics and Protestants often have very different beliefs, and Protestantism itself holds denominations as varied as evangelical fundamentalism and Unitarianism. In Islam, similarly large differences exist between Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Muslims and their beliefs. These differences have run so deep that Catholics and Protestants, Sunnis and Shiites, and Christians and Muslims have sometimes warred against each other over their beliefs.

Major branches of Islam.
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Major branches of Islam.

A few major similarities exist between Christians and Muslims. Both belief systems are monotheistic, encourage or require the practice of daily prayer, and believe in the importance of many of the same figures, though their interpretation of them is often very different. Likewise, certain basic principles are generally supported within both faiths: the Ten Commandments for Christians and the The Five or Seven Pillars of Islam for Muslims. Heaven and Hell, angels, demons, and spirits, are generally accepted by both religions, as is an apocalypse.

Similar to Judaism, Islam tends to have stricter guidelines or rules than Christianity does. In modern Christianity, most hardline rules are found in the Old Testament and more related to Judaism, and many of the rules found in the New Testament are downplayed. For example, Christians may or may not "keep the Sabbath holy" by resting, even though doing so is a commandment, and most freely eat whatever they want, including pork and foods not blessed by religious leaders, something that Muslims and Jews do not do under halal and kosher dietary restrictions.

Scriptures

Two of the biggest differences found among Christian sects/denominations when it comes to scripture have to do with how literally the Bible is interpreted, whether it is considered the inerrant word of God as passed down through various writers or seen as being "inspired" and metaphorical, and whether "good works" or "faith alone" is most important for entry into heaven. Some Christians believe the Bible should be at the foundation of all matters: politics, education, charity, etc. Others believe their faith is personal and private and that Christian scripture really only applies to Christians.

Muslims believe there have been many prophets and messengers sent by Allah throughout time, but that their messages have been corrupted by man. They believe Muhammad was the latest and final prophet and that the Qur'an is the only uncorrupted holy message in the world. The vast majority of Muslims believe the Qur'an is the inerrant word of Allah, as passed down through the Prophet Muhammad, and can and should be part of every aspect in life, even when it comes to matters such as banking, warfare, and politics. The governmental enforcement of Islamic beliefs and practices is known as Sharia law. In a 2012 Pew Research study on Muslim political beliefs, a majority of people in Pakistan, Jordan, and Egypt felt laws should strictly follow the Qur'an, while people in Tunisia, Turkey, and Lebanon were less inclined to want their governments to follow the Qur'an.

Christians and Muslims' sociopolitical views often go hand-in-hand with how literally they interpret the Bible or Qur'an, with the most traditional and fundamentalist of both religions rejecting certain matters of gender equality, same-sex marriage, the theory of evolution, etc.

Apocalypse

Belief in an imminent apocalypse that is soon to transpire varies by region among Christians and Muslims, but in many cases both groups do believe it will occur at some point in the future. There are many similarities between their versions of the apocalypse as well, having developed from similar or even the same texts.

Some Muslims believe as Christians do, that Jesus will be the one to return at the end of the world; the difference is that Muslims believe Jesus' return is a sign, not the actual end, and that his purpose is to destroy Christian symbols and convert Christians to the true religion of Islam. Other Muslims, such as the Shia Twelvers, believe Jesus is a minor figure in the apocalypse, if even present, and that a figure known as the Mahdi—Islam's 12th imam who has been hiding since the 9th century—will be the one who returns and helps cleanse the world of evil.

Demographics

With over 2.1 billion followers, over half of which are Catholic, Christianity is the world's largest religion. Islam, with over 1.5 billion followers, is the world's second largest religion; Sunnis make up 80-90% of Islam's adherents. Because the two religions are the largest in the world, one or the other is generally the dominant faith in nearly every country, with a few exceptions in Asia where Buddhism or no religion is dominant.

Maps showing the distribution of Christianity and Islam throughout the world. Click to enlarge.
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Maps showing the distribution of Christianity and Islam throughout the world. Click to enlarge.

References

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